Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It says in Divrei HaRav (by R. Hershel Schachter, p143) that when they asked R. Aharon Kotler whether a non-Jewish secular studies teacher in a yeshiva should be asked to wear a yarmulke, he said he should be told specifically not to wear a yarmulke, because this is a case of והבדלתם in which Jews should wear yarmulkes in order to appear different from non-Jews.

Would this apply in a synagogue setting also, that non-Jewish guests should not wear a yarmulke? Or perhaps not, because the pedagogical motive is not present. Are there sources that discuss this?

share|improve this question
Is this question asking about the opinion of R. Aharon Kotler, or asking it as a question of general practice? i.e. do you want to know if R. Aharon Kotler or his students would say about a non-jew wearing a kippah in shul, or do you not care if the answer even agrees with R. Aharaon Kotler's initial savrah? – avi Mar 3 '12 at 18:48
Just general -- R. Kotler's comment was just the motivation for the question – Curiouser Mar 6 '12 at 1:58
I see that R. Elayshiv holds that: "One should try to convince a worker who is a yid but is not frum to wear a yarmulka while he is working in shul" (thehalacha.com/attach/Volume3/Issue17.pdf) which would seem to imply that a non-Jewish worker does not need to put on a yarmulke – Curiouser Mar 6 '12 at 7:50
That is a worker, not an attendee :) – avi Mar 6 '12 at 10:14
I remember hearing a few years ago, some Catholic cardinals, in full robes, came to YU. I wonder if the Rav would have asked them to take their "yarmulkes" off so they could be distinguished as non-Jews. ;-) – Bruce James Feb 11 '13 at 17:19

There is no actual halakhic obligation for even a Jew to wear a kipa. The brakha in the morning (which is to be recited upon doing the action) "`oter Yisrael batifara" is recited upon wrapping a turban. See Mishne Torah hilkhoth tefilla pereq zen. Over time in Ashkenazi galut, various customs changed and wearing a kipa became the accepted practice. This is good and fine, and proper. In fact, in tefilla, one should have one's head covered.

The idea of not walking 4 amot without one's head covered was meant as an act of hasidut of conversing with HaShem basically constantly. It was meant as having the head covered with a talith, as being in tefilla, rather than just walking about period.

There is no halakhic obligation to have one's head covered, besides for in tefilla. I know this response will not be popular, but it is indeed the correct understanding of the gemara and the actual halakhic requirement, contrary to popular understanding.

Our Arab cousins often share the same original style of dress as us in our originality, but it is distinguished other than through headcovering. Kipot and some other Ashkenazi dress sometimes originated from Christian sources. So I think the whole question stands on some misunderstanding to begin with.

share|improve this answer
Hello Aman and welcome to Judaism.SE! Thanks for your informative contribution. Could you provide a source for kipa-wearing as a Christian practice? – WAF Feb 26 '12 at 14:11
I don't disagree with your analysis, but I don't think this answers the question. – Double AA Feb 26 '12 at 14:12
@Waf Jews were forced by Christian law to wear various head coverings. Those head coverings became Jewish and loved by the Jews as a sign of pride over time. – avi Feb 26 '12 at 14:29
The analysis is interesting, but I'd like to see some sources, as well, and not just for @WAF's question. – Seth J Feb 26 '12 at 20:28
@Aman, anything and everything you have claimed? – Yirmeyahu Mar 13 '12 at 14:54

In this shiur by Rabbi Yonason Roodyn (17:26) he quotes the Rif that can be taken to mean that there is an obligation for gentiles to cover their heads in a synagogue.

share|improve this answer
Does he mention where one can find this Rif? – Double AA Mar 15 '12 at 13:39
The halacha is quoted in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 91:3 as a "yesh omrim". The B'eir haGola cites the Kol Bo in the name of the Rif. – Curiouser Mar 18 '12 at 18:19
Although Yabia Omer OH 6:15 cites the halacha in the name of Rabbeinu Peretz: ורבינו פרץ כתב, שיש למחות שלא להכנס לבהכ"נ בגילוי הראש – Curiouser Mar 18 '12 at 19:01
But is there any evidence that this din applies to non-Jews? – Curiouser Mar 18 '12 at 19:35

The general practice I have seen in both in practice and in writing is that a non-Jew should wear a head covering in the Beis Kenesses:

"The rule about a head covering in the synagogue should also be observed by non-Jews. The male visitor who does not have a head covering of his own, should take a skullcap provided by the synagogue. the skullcap itself, as I have mentioned, has no intrinsic religious sanctity, but putting in on conforms to the Jewish way of showing respect in a religious setting." (Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin, To Pray as a Jew, page 60).

I do not believe that this is, strictly speaking, a halachic issue since it would be difficult to say that the non-Jew has an obligation to wear a head covering, but it is a matter of etiquette and respect. Indeed Rabbi Donin's quote comes for the section he titled "What to tell non-Jews visiting the Synagogue."

This situation is not similar to the issue of non-Jewish teachers. In such a situation there is prolonged personal contact with a person who serves in a mentoring capacity. It is natural for students to turn to these adults as role models and as such a need to emphasize that the rebbeim are to serve as the primary role models. A visitor is a visitor, if they would like to visit they need to respect the holiness of the Synagogue.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.